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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Constructive Criticism And Handling Criticism In Personal Life

Giving constructive criticism

If you need to give criticism then check it is specific and not a personal attack.

‘Chris, I’ve noticed your sales figures have been low these last two months why is that?’

Not, ‘Chris, you’d better pull your socks up and get some more sales otherwise it’ll be curtains for you.’

Don’t jump to conclusions; they might be the wrong ones. Chris’s sales figures might be low because he has personal problems or ill health. The why question is vital in case of criticism.

Give the other person the chance to reflect on it and state his case. You can then go on to ask for suggestions to bring about desired change, for example, ‘What are your ideas for improving this?’

Handling criticism in a personal relationship

Women, generally speaking, are much more vocal about their criticism than men when it comes to personal relationships. This has its roots in the fact that women like to voice their feelings and emotions, preferring to get them out into the open and discuss them whereas men prefer to retreat into themselves, into their ‘cave’. When a man refuses to discuss a problem or respond to a criticism he can often be accused by a woman of trying to wriggle out of it.

In a healthy relationship both men and women should be able to express their criticisms openly, without fear or anger or upsetting the other person, but all too often, in the heat of the moment, criticism when it comes can be construed as a personal attack. This leaves the person on the receiving end feeling bitter, angry, hurt and upset. If the criticism is also given in a hostile or bitter tone of voice, and/or is accompanied by a look of contempt or loathing, then the person on the receiving end is going to be deeply wounded. If this forms a continual pattern over a period of time then the danger signs are that one partner has made a judgement about the other for the worse which can result in that partner either fighting back (sparks will fly) or stonewalling, (generally a man’s response), retreating into silence. This in turn can lead to the eventual
break-up of the relationship.

One partner in this relationship will begin to feel that he or she is the innocent victim of the criticism and that the other person is always picking on them, which can result in that person experiencing a feeling of righteous indignation – ‘how dare he/she?’- fuelling anger. Once these thoughts become an automatic response they are self-confirming: the partner who feels victimized will be scanning everything for some hidden slight to confirm the view, thereby poisoning the relationship until the break-up.

But it needn’t get this far if we can learn to handle criticism in a healthy way. Having an inner confidence and good self-esteem can help but also when you feel inclined to criticize your partner, before you do so stop and think.

For men, when your partner/wife criticizes you don’t side-step it or stonewall it but look upon it as a way of improving the relationship. It is not a personal attack but a means of saying ‘what do we need to do/change to make this situation/ relationship better?’ Listen to her and empathize, don’t rush in to solve the problem.

And for women, examine the nature of your criticism and make it less of a personal attack and more a constructive criticism over what was done, the action or activity rather than the person.

For both, before criticizing or being irritated by what the other person has done or said counteract this with the good things about that person: recall their generosity, kindness, loving, thoughtfulness, fun etc.

Fundamental to successful communication is the ability to understand others. Being able to enter into their inner world, see things from their frame of reference and agree its validity from their perspective.

We cannot communicate more confidently without looking first at ourselves.